Government’s promised one-off payments to Cayman’s vulnerable groups have been delivered, Premier Alden McLaughlin confirmed Tuesday.
The payments were made on 27 March, he said.
“We have extended approval for continuing assistance to all existing (Needs Assessment Unit) clients from three to six months,” McLaughlin said, as he updated the public at government’s COVID-19 media briefing.
He said the NAU, which is under his Community Affairs ministry, paid the additional $425 stipend to those on permanent financial assistance, as well as to seamen and veterans.
“We are currently providing services and assistance to 1,653 families, consisting of food vouchers, rent, utilities and permanent financial assistance. Of the families being served, some 60% are elderly,” he said.
In addition, the NAU is processing 81 new applications for families in need of assistance, McLaughlin said.
This is in addition to the nearly $3 million already approved by Cabinet “to assist the most vulnerable, elderly and disabled Caymanians”, he said.
The premier had previously noted he was expecting an increase in applications following the collapse of the tourism industry after the closing of Cayman’s borders.
Help for tourism workers
Speaking at the press briefing, McLaughlin also announced that those affected work-permit holders within the tourism industry will now have access to a $150 food voucher.
However, he said, anyone applying for assistance will undergo an assessment and the help would only be available to work-permit holders “who urgently require food supplies and who have insufficient income or savings to sustain themselves”.
Applications for the food voucher will be accepted starting Wednesday, 1 April for “review and approval”.
“Vouchers will provide interim support over a two-week period to those who qualify until the airport reopens and/or all they are able to resume their jobs,” McLaughlin said.
Although government is assisting in this regard, the premier appealed to employers to do their part.
“We encourage employers to continue to assist their employees in so far as that is possible,” he said.
According to a Government Information Services statement, “emergency supplementary funding, recently approved by Cabinet, will provide temporary food assistance to non-Caymanians who qualify and are unable to leave the Cayman Islands or who find themselves out of work due to the impact of COVID-19”.
Those who qualify can apply by downloading the Non-Caymanian COVID-19 Support application form.
Alternatively, forms can be collected from various supermarkets and gas stations in Grand Cayman and Cayman Brac. Completed forms should be emailed to [email protected] or left in the drop box outside the Customs and Border Control Office (formerly Immigration headquarters) on Elgin Avenue.
McLaughlin has encouraged everyone in the community to continue to support one another, Caymanian and non-Caymanian alike.
He said government will ensure that those impacted by the COVID-19 closures are assisted.
Out-of-work expats should return home
However, for work-permit holders who no longer have jobs, “if the opportunity affords [them] to leave, [they] should leave. They should return to their home. But, in the interim, if they do not have a job, I have said more than once the government will do whatever it can to ensure they have a roof over their head, they have food to eat and access to healthcare,” he said.
Tackling the issue of comments and social media audio notes singling out work-permit holders, aimed at driving them out of Cayman, McLaughlin said, “I have said more than once we are all human beings.”
He added, “Unfortunately, all human beings are subject to prejudices and biases, that is why we have rules and laws in place. If I am not prejudiced against you because of your colour and your ethnicity, I am prejudiced against you because of your religion, or your gender; that’s how human beings are.
“But in times like these, in particular, we need to do everything we can to help each other … In Cayman, it is a community crisis and we are only going to get through it if we all work together, live together and try to help each other.”
The premier has also appealed on several occasions to residential landlords to be understanding and flexible with their tenants.
The GIS statement also suggested landlords use security deposits in lieu of rent if necessary.
In addition, McLaughlin said that a new hotline is being established for the elderly to address their concerns and queries.
Those seeking further information and guidance on the NAU process can call 244-8000 between 10am and 4pm (Mondays to Fridays).